Friday, November 23, 2007

São Paulo

São Paulo is immense. The scale of the city is breathtaking. It is not only the largest city in Brazil, but all of South America and even the Southern Hemisphere. I figured that with a population of 12 million, surely there would be some great buildings to see...and the city did not disappoint.

Lina bo Bardi's SESC Pompei was my favorite. Bo Bardi converted an old drum factory in the city into a cultural center. It is a great example of adaptive reuse. The project houses multiple gym spaces for the neighborhood children to play, a pool, a modern art museum, a small theater, public art studios, a cafe and small restaurant, and public spaces to congregate and contemplate. Beyond the pictures in my slide show below, there is a good slide show that shows architectural details on here.

Another Bo Bardi project that we visited was the MASP (Museo de Arte de São Paulo). A much earlier work by Bo Bardi and equally interesting. This building while not my favorite aesthetically, solves an interesting urban problem. The site is located at the head of a park which has a wonderful view down a hill in very dense part of the city. Most of the schemes submitted for this project ruined both the visual and physical connection to this space. Bo Bardi's scheme elevated part of the building to span the site and the remainder was built into the hill below. This maintained the visual connection down the hill and the space beneath her suspended volume became an extension of the public park space. The covered area is used to have outdoor concerts in the rainy season. A former professor of mine, Zeuler Lima is currently working on a book about Lina Bo Bardi. He is a noted Bo Bardi scholar and recently won the Bruno Zevi Prize for a paper he authored on her. Keep an eye out for the book if you are interested in learning more of this under appreciated figure of Brazilian modernism.

One of the most impressive buildings in São Paulo is certainly the architecture school FAU USP or Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo. Designed by Vilanova Artigas this building is a pinnacle of Brazilian modernism. An gargantuan open air concrete building circulates the students with large ramps and houses them under a seemingly endless ceiling. The space, while impressive seems like a terrible place to study. The large open areas with drafting tables in rows for hundreds of meters makes me one think of the Orwell's 1984. That being said the space is a sight to see.

We saw a few projects by Paulo Mendes da Rocha. His MUBE (Museu Brasileiro da Esultura) is an interesting sculpture museum which reminded my of Bo Bardi's MASP. The buildings share Brasilian architects love of large spans. Mendes da Rocha's work is all over São Paulo. We saw a renovation he did to the Pinacoteca do Estado. This is arguably Brazil's most important art museum. Mendes da Rocha converted the building from an old art school into its current state. The building, like Bo Bardi's SESC shows once again that wonderful architecture can be created from old buildings.

I've left him last, but one can't speak about Brazilian architecture without talking of Oscar Niemeyer; he turns 100 on December 12th by the way. He has many important projects in São Paulo including Ibirapuera Park and the Copan Building. We visited both, but I'll leave some explanation for future posts. Well, that's it for my summary of São Paulo. We'll complete our Brazilian tour in Rio de Janeiro next time.

1 comment:

Kassava Manihot said...

hi, i came across your blog by chance--what a great idea! anyway, i couldn't help responding to your impressions on the FAU building in sao paulo, having studied there in the 90s. although i see your point about the drafting studios, the actual experience of studying and working there was quite different from _1984_... it was actually more of a communal, and slightly disordered by very democratic feeling with lots of free interaction and a bit of mess. those studios were places to socialize, work, party... and the lack of walls made you feel always part of the larger community of the school.